The Trump administration's last-minute attempt to sell off Alaskan drilling rights totally bombed

A small bit of good news that got overshadowed by the rest of the chaos on Wednesday, January 10:

Shortly after President Trump lost his bid for re-election, the Trump Administration decided to push through some rushed plans to sell off the oil drilling rights to the previously-protected Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska. As The Guardian wrote in November:

In a last-ditch attempt to make good on promises to the oil and gas industry, the Trump administration is rushing to formalize plans to drill for oil in the Arctic national wildlife refuge before Joe Biden takes office. On Tuesday, the Bureau of Land Management initiated the process with a formal "call for nominations", inviting input on which land tracts should be auctioned off in the refuge's 1.5m-acre coastal plain region.


The coastal plain region, where land could be auctioned, is considered some of the country's last pristine wilderness, containing dozens of polar bear dens, essential migratory bird habitat, and caribou calving grounds held sacred to the Gwich'in people.

"Oil and gas drilling could wipe out polar bears on the coastal plain of the Arctic national wildlife refuge in our lifetimes," said Jamie Rappaport Clark, president and chief executive of Defenders of Wildlife, in a statement.

Native communities in the region say they will also be disproportionately affected by the leasing of Arctic lands to oil and gas companies.

The bidding ended up taking place on January 6 — but only attracted 3 bidders, one of whom was the state of Alaska itself. From NPR:

Alaska's state-owned economic development corporation was the only bidder on nine of the parcels offered for lease in the northernmost swath of the refuge, known as the coastal plain. Two small companies also each picked up a single parcel.

Half of the offered leases drew no bids at all.


The lease sale raised a total of $14.4 million in bids, according to the Bureau of Land Management, the federal agency that held the sale. Nearly all of that came from Alaska's state-owned economic development corporation, the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority.

Half of the cash will go to the federal government, and half will go back to the state of Alaska.

According to Smithsonian Mag, the Fed was anticipating around $900 million in profit—which means their rush move to fuck the planet only brought in about 1/62nd of what they were hoping.

That's good news. The bad news is: now that the land has been sold, there's not much that can stop the development of drilling infrastructure, if that's what the state of Alaska or the other 2 buyers choose to do.

Major Oil Companies Take A Pass On Controversial Lease Sale In Arctic Refuge [Tegan Hanlon and Nat Herz / NPR]

The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge Will Not Face Mass Oil Drilling—for Now [Rasha Aridi / Smithsonian Magazine]

Image: Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons